Microsoft wants to give military logistics a cloud-based, analytics-driven makeover.
The Redmond, Wash., software giant is offering the U.S. Armed Forces a peek at the future of planning and executing military campaigns. "To demonstrate how defense organizations can combine a highly secure portal with advanced analytics to improve their performance, we recently developed a proof-of-concept portal that tracks the logistics of a brigade deployment," Parul Bhandari, Microsoft's big data solution lead for government, wrote in a Feb. 11 announcement.
As is increasingly the case with Microsoft, its massive cloud has been tasked to perform the heavy lifting. "Built on the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform, the portal demonstrates how armed forces can obtain the information they need, when they need it, enabling them to make quick, data-driven decisions based on real-time information."
In the proof-of-concept, a commander is given orders to commence a combat training exercise, moving a brigade from home base to another location. Military leaders can view orders via Outlook, check on the status of their brigades in real time and monitor troop movements on a self-updating map.
Azure Machine Learning is used to generate alerts, including developing weather patterns that can affect an operation. A Person Search tool provides information on the location of service members and their assignments.
Microsoft's military portal also draws its inspiration from the company's cloud-based business intelligence (BI) platform.
"Once the operation is over, the commander can view a report summarizing high-level information about the deployment mission. Using Microsoft Power BI, he can also compare the deployment with similar ones in the past to discover trends that might help him increase his future efficiency," stated Bhandari.
Gaining IT Skills
Microsoft is also working to prepare service members for their post-military careers in IT.
Separately, Microsoft announced that it was expanding its Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) to five U.S. Army bases. MSSA provides U.S. service members with IT training and career guidance.
The new Fort Campbell, Ky., location will open on April 25. Other MSSA locations opening in 2016 include Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Carson, Colo., with the Fort Bliss, Texas, facility opening sometime next year. "Our education partner, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, will provide the infrastructure to deliver Microsoft curriculum and coursework that trains service members on in-demand areas of IT, including cloud development, cloud administration, and database and business intelligence administration," Chris Cortez, vice president of military affairs at Microsoft, said in a statement.
More than 300 service members have completed the program since its inception two years ago, according to Cortez. In addition to developing their IT skills, graduates earn job interview opportunities with Microsoft and participating partners.
"Ninety-two percent of MSSA participants graduate, and of those graduates, 82 percent are employed or have gone on to pursue more schooling. Ninety-six companies have hired MSSA grads, and the average starting salary for graduates is more than $70,000," he added.